Thursday, April 30, 2020

Told You So!

Well it didn't take long. As I (sort of) predicted below, the restrictions on our re-opened beaches have been lifted. 

You may now park, bring a picnic and even, mirabile dictu,  a towel with you. It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope we don't have to copy California and close the beaches again because there are just too many people going there. It's a bit hard when the weather's glorious and there's not much else to do. I note that the dog beach will still be closed which may lead to more dog-related aggro as has happened in the past. I will have to control my inner vigilante. The dog owners are probably desperate, having promised Fido his very own beach when they moved down here.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Our New Normal

Today something momentous happened. Our Florida county decided to open its beaches again. This is not, however, without its complications. They have opened the beaches only for worthy activities like walking, running and - what was the other one? Oh yes, swimming. And surfing. Though this is hardly California. So you can go on the beach provided you a) Don't come by car (the car parks are still closed but I suspect the neighbouring streets are going to get a mite clogged up), b) Don't sit or lie down or, presumably, stand still  and c) Don't even think of bringing a beach chair, a picnic or, heaven forbid, a towel. I wish them luck with policing that. 

Meanwhile the local citizenry here on the island, understandably because of its average age, is being largely very responsible about social distancing. When we walk we give each other wide berths and try to disguise cautious suspicion behind big smiles and "Hello how ya doing?"  At the supermarket they've set up a one-way system around the aisles and told everyone to stay six feet apart. The staff carry on as if nothing's the matter, cheerful and welcoming behind plastic shields at the checkout. They remind me just a little of flight attendants trying to pretend there's no cause for alarm.  It's still a bit of a stressful experience. The other day I strapped on my mask (a really pretty designer one with flowers sewn by my clever neighbour) and sallied forth. First I went the wrong way down a one way street and had to go into surreptitious reverse. Then traffic came to a halt as one customer of  a  certain age pondered which brand of salad dressing to get, while another stared at the empty loo roll shelves as if trying to cook up a miracle. In the end I made the decision to overtake and inadvertently stepped backwards into the woman behind me who was tailgating, "Ewwww. don't do that!" she squealed. Well you needn't have got that close I thought uncharitably. Then in the next aisle I gave plenty of room to a maskless man. He glared at me, "It's not leprosy you know!" You can't win.
  "Actually", hubby said when I got home, "It's worse than leprosy. These days you can cure leprosy."
"He didn't look as if he'd be receptive to a biology lesson", I said and wearily carried on disinfecting the orange juice cartons. Such is the new normal.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

British Bluebells

If there are any good things about our current house arrest, one is keeping in contact with friends in Britain, getting their news and how they're coping. Having sent a picture of our Florida frangipani in bloom (see below), I got a stream of British scenes in return - spring tulips and daffodils, even a British robin, which I miss so much here.
  But this one takes the prize. A real British bluebell wood somewhere in Sussex. A friend and her husband discovered it while on their regulation exercise walk. They are lucky of course to live in such a beautiful place.

There's nothing to beat that delicate blue mist. Nothing like it in the world.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Emptiness of Harbor Drive

Normally on a Saturday morning Harbor (sic) Drive would be a teeny bit busier than this. People going to the golf club, the dog beach, to the human beaches, the fishing pier, the nature reserve. Not now.

Instead walkers and cyclists have taken over. It's not always a harmonious combination. Cyclists here  - I mean the lycra-and-helmet sort, not those pottering around - don't seem to use bells to warn you they're coming. Sometimes they come extremely fast, working off their frustrations, no doubt. A swift, silent menace. Runners are almost as bad. This isn't usually a place for runners, so I don't know where they've come from, especially the younger ones. Some people still seem to be arriving here on holiday. My neighbours are not pleased about that.An extremely skinny girl blasted straight through our walking group (yes we do keep six feet apart) without so much as an excuse me. And when a lone car appears, we look at it as though it's come from an alien planet, "What are you doing here?" How times have changed.
  The beach access has lost its cheerful flyers for our monthly socials and substituted stern decrees.

Though someone isn't bothered..

Also doing all right is the monstrosity, which seems to gain another storey every time I pass it.

All the empty windows make it look even more sinister.  Alas, modesty and understatement isn't much in vogue here any more. if you can build bigger, bigger, bigger then why not do it?  
   It was the small houses that made this neighbourhood so charming. A hold-out against ostentatious, overbuilt coastal Florida. Yes OK, new building regulations mean houses on the beach have to be raised up to allow for hurricanes and flood surges. But you can still exercise a little self-restraint.   Alas, further up and down the coast there are more and more of these trophy houses going up but this is the most egregious example in our community. Neighbouring streets are still relatively unscathed but for how long?

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Morale Booster: Bad News and Good News

First the bad news. 

Then the good news.

Once again, nature ignores the headlines.The flowering jacaranda tree in the park is happily thumbing its nose at gloom and doom. As we stay a bit longer than usual down south, we're getting the benefit of early summer sights we didn't get a chance to see before. Meanwhile my friend in western New York emailed, "It's winter again here, don't hurry back!"

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Happy Easter

And what a difference a day can make!

That ear needed a friend!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Morale Booster: Spring Springs

Yes Florida does have a spring. Some of our trees do shed their leaves in winter and start getting leaves again around March. It's harder to spot than it is up north because we do have sunshine and flowers blooming through the winter - hibiscus, bougainvillea, Mexican petunias and such (though our sad sack bougainvilleas in the front are still on strike. I'm trying benign neglect.)
  For us the biggest sign of spring is when the frangipanis start sprouting. Through the winter, they look bare and ugly with thick stumpy twigs sticking out like deer antlers. But yesterday morning I saw this

Which by the afternoon had become this

They have a truly exotic scent - if it was air freshener you'd turn up your nose, but as it's nature, well, that's OK.  I used to wonder why our frangipani had different coloured flowers - until a visitor pointed out that there were actually two of them, next to each other. I'd never noticed.
  And speaking of scent, the Confederate jasmine

which had a head start on the frangipani, is going great guns

  Though that may not be quite the appropriate expression for Confederate jasmine.
  And then there's something very weird and wonderful. A few weeks ago, before house arrest days, I was in the local garden centre and saw they had a box full of things that looked like small coconuts, with instructions on how to plant them. They were elephant ears. I couldn't resist planting one. For a long time nothing happened. I'd given up on it and then a tiny, determined-looking shoot appeared. Since then it's been unstoppable. This is what it looked like two days ago.

And it's already a lot bigger, with another couple of leaves. I'm not sure what I've got myself into. As we approach Easter and pray fervently for a miracle, it's marvellous to think how nature shows us there's always hope.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Morale Booster: Bangers in Florida!

  I needed a morale booster today - as we all do. For me few things hit the spot better than proper British bangers for lunch. Slightly burnt, slightly crispy, sizzling and popping in a pan. This is something I went without on this side of the pond for so many years. I tried every food shop, supermarket, website I could find but there was nothing even approximating to the true banger. I used to have several for breakfast at Heathrow before flying back as it would need to keep me going for  long, long time. Once on one of our road trips sister-in-law and I found a tiny cafe. It had no menu, just the owner who said, "What would you like and I'll see what I can do".
 "What I would like is British bangers", I said without much hope. And he did produce something which for a long time held the prize as the nearest to a banger I could find in America. The taste was good but it did not have a skin. So therefore not a banger. I thought I was destined for a life of longing until something extraordinary happened.
  Hubby and I went to the local German butchers' looking for real frankfurters - I'll always the remembered the frankfurters I ate as a starving student at the railway station in Salzburg - long thin and yellow with a dollop of mustard and a proper kaiser roll - with a great deal of affection, though of course not the deep enduring love I have for bangers. After we'd found the frankfurters I wandered around the shop and ended up at the fresh sausage counter. I did a double take. There, miraculously, unbelievably, among the Italian, Spanish, German stuff was a sign saying "British Bangers". I shrieked, I nearly collapsed. When I'd composed myself I gasped, "Real British bangers?"
 "Of course", said the man, "we get lots of people in here with your accent".

So we stocked up the freezer with the bangers, which were truly authentic. So now, when desperate times call for desperate measures I get a couple out and indulge. And the ultimate irony, which an English football fan would appreciate, is that they came from a German shop!